Monday 22 July 2019 4:06 am

DEBATE: Is 4G on the Tube something to get excited about?

Is 4G on the Tube something to get excited about?

Ben Askins, managing director at Verb Brands, says YES.

“Sorry I didn’t get back to you, I was on the Tube” is an anecdote that our grandchildren will be shocked by.

While it’s true that no one will be able to stop the incoming onslaught of obnoxious “Hello! Yeah I’m on the Tube! No, it’s rubbish!” Dom Joly types, the benefits of 4G on the London Underground are stark.

Yes, it’s important to switch off, but people will now have choice; Tube delays will be less painful; and 1.35bn passengers every year can continue whatever they were doing when they got on the escalator.


Commuters already spend £22.8bn a year on purchases made while on their journeys to or from work, a vast 14 per cent of annual online UK spend, and 4G will make Londoners’ travel useful time. Adding milk to your Ocado shop, buying those shoes on Asos, admiring Ronaldo’s new Bugatti on Instagram, or getting through the life admin you’ve been putting off for weeks – it’s all doable.

For the dreamers and bookworms, there’s no obligation to get your phone out. But for the rest of us, we’ll no longer have to mind the digital gap.

Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says NO.

Refuges in which one’s fellow man is not turned into a screen-gazing, slack-jawed zombie inexorably dwindle to nothing: some flights (for now); churches (generally, at least); now, alas, we lose the Tube.

Is there any illustration of our dependence on these obsession boxes more obvious and powerful than the fact that people are apparently incapable of being temporarily offline even when deep underground?

People on the Tube – you may find this hard to believe – actually do this thing called “reading”. Actual books. I’m not kidding. Go down and see it, while you can. They talk to their friends without that tediously distracted air of the person perpetually pulling the screen down to refresh in search of something ephemeral rather than looking at what’s in front of them.

Now, the same frustration felt while navigating London streets around handset-hypnotised shufflers not looking where they’re going will be duplicated in the tunnelled world beneath us too. Thanks, progress.


Don’t the clots responsible realise that the absence of signal is the best thing about the Underground?

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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